That Was The Week That Was

Here…

• From France (soft power of, as developed through funding of language immersion schools)…

• …to Germany (stereotypes in, as rooted in Pietist frugality)…

• …to the Ukraine (starvation of, by Stalin and Hitler), The Pietist Schoolman is your source for all things European!

• Then, for variety’s sake, some advice for Christian parents looking to get their kids started on the spiritual disciplines.

…There and Everywhere

• Congratulations to my Bethel colleagues Christian Collins Winn and Kyle Roberts for receiving a sizable grant from the John Templeton Foundation to help evangelical churches better engage with questions of faith and science.Ad for the Nye-Ham Debate

• Apropos of nothing… Hey look, it’s “Science Guy” Ken Nye and young Earth creationist Ken Ham! For a calm, reasonable array of responses to a publicity stunt masquerading as a significant debate, visit BioLogos.

• But if, like me, you’re not really a good person and simply want to read someone eviscerate both of these guys… Michael Schulson of The Daily Beast was disheartened to score it a clear win for Ham — not because he agrees with Ham (highest praise: “Ham sounded like a reasonable human being, loosely speaking, and that’s what mattered”) but because “When you exist on the cultural fringe and make your living by antagonizing established authority, there’s no form of media attention you don’t love.” Of course, he wasn’t so sure craven sensationalism wasn’t what was driving Nye — either he’s a “publicity-hungry cynic” or possessed of “less political acumen than your average wombat.”

• For a much more interesting, surprising conversation, see this one between Mennonites (for whom “Constantinian” is a dirty word) and Eastern Orthodox (for whom Constantine is, literally, a saint).

Abortion protests in front of the Supreme Court in 2009
2009 abortion protests in front of Supreme Court – Creative Commons (giraffebacon)

• Also surprising and interesting is Brethren pastor-blogger Joshua Brockway’s account of his journey between the unsatisfactory poles of American politics and religion: “…I have to say I am a recovering progressive in search of better words, more options, and less antagonism in the ways we understand our world and our discipleship.”

• And if you doubt that those poles exist or that they’re unsatisfactory, look for responses to the news that the U.S. abortion rate is at a thirty-year low. Then read William Saletan’s balanced assessment of all sides, which seeks to “acknowledge the immorality of abortion, relative to pregnancy prevention, without abandoning the individual as the decision-maker.”

• Stick with this New Yorker piece past the “Christian Oscars” silliness to get a sense of how two evangelical Christians can approach film from radically different directions.

• I’ve met enough that are quite the opposite to know that most Reformed Protestants are not “sneering Calvinists.” But I’ve met and read enough who fit the profile (“condescending, aggressive, abrasive, and unhelpful” in their approach to theological debate) that I’m heartened that The Gospel Coalition Blog would publish Derek Rishmawy’s post calling for “helpful humility.” Even more, that it has received largely positive response in the comments section.

• At least this country doesn’t have a monopoly on biblical illiteracy

• What does it mean to be called by God? A nice overview answer from William Messenger: “…in the Bible, the concept of calling goes deeper than any one aspect of life, such as work. God calls people to become united with himself in every aspect of life. This can only occur as a response to Christ’s call to follow him. The calling to follow Christ lies at the root of every other calling. It is important, however, not to confuse a calling to follow Christ with a calling to become a professional church worker. People in every walk of life are called to follow Christ with equal depth and commitment.”

• Philip Jenkins marked 400 years since the beginning of the most intense stage of the persecution of Christians in Japan.

• I’m hoping to work on a digital history project this summer with one of my students. I’m hoping that it’s even a fraction as valuable as this attempt to map the emancipation of slaves in the United States.

Fea, Why Study History• This semester in our senior seminar, I’ll be having my students read and write their way through John Fea’s Why Study History? If David Swartz’s review is on target, they’ll enjoy the experience.

• A couple of colleagues in our English department are teaching a seminar on “Monsters and the Monstrous.” I think they should meet the Ohio Wesleyan professor teaching “History and Horror” this fall.

• Given my track record, it’s a virtual certainty that another Olympiad will mean another post on national anthems. In the meantime, make your own! (Sample from my attempt: “O’er mountains and valleys where prairies roll / Our fathers, the Pietists, valiant and bold / Drove back the invader; this heritage hold.”)

• Central European deer, the last Cold Warriors.

• One of my only regrets from my J-term class on World War II is that it ended before I could take everyone to see The Monuments Men, which probably won’t include this interesting chapter in the art history of the war.

• Now that that class is done, it’s high time I reboot my photoblog on war commemoration, starting with a post on Minnesota’s easy-to-miss Korean War Veterans Memorial.

• A conservative case for sustaining the liberal arts against libertarian-utilitarian disruption: “Because there is considerable truth and even more persuasiveness in these criticisms, we conservatives have to rally to defend the diversity that is the saving grace of American higher education. By diversity, of course, I mean the devotion to moral, religious, and educational missions that are about much more than productivity. We have to articulate a persuasive case for the continuing relevance of liberal education, call the disruptive critics on  their shameless exaggerations concerning how decadent American education has become, and work hard to keep our pockets of excellence from sucked into the whirlpool of holding everything accountable according to standards of measurable productivity.”

• In this vein, see also Hunter Baker’s recent essay for The Federalist: “If you really think about learning, there are some master disciplines which unlock all the others. They are philosophy, history, mathematics, language (reading/writing), and science (mainly mastery of the scientific method). These disciplines form the core of learning and comprise the engine of its expression. The student who gains proficiency in these areas will maintain, for virtually the rest of his/her life, the capacity to learn new things and to organize those new things within the context of the older things. The learning that takes place in these areas does not really expire. It does not become dated. It is a fund that maintains its value. The same is not necessarily true of knowledge gained in professional programs.”

• My favorite singer-songwriter (from Illinois) guest-starring on my favorite sitcom (set in Indiana)? The Midwest is officially the center of American culture.


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